Souness v Giles: ‘I remember it vividly. Johnny was an absolute rascal. His six studs, a real stinger.’

Graeme Souness adds John Giles to a select group of three midfield opponents.
Souness v Giles: ‘I remember it vividly. Johnny was an absolute rascal. His six studs, a real stinger.’

For several years, John Giles and Graeme Souness sat alongside one another on the RTÉ football panel.

On the famous night when Souness asked Eamon Dunphy where he had managed, and Eamo countered that he had ‘managed to stay alive for 63 and a half years, baby’, the argument began as Giles v Souness, over Arsene Wenger’s supposed parsimony.

But Gilesy and Souey had tangled long before, in the engine room of the old First Division, when the Leeds legend had veteran status, and Souness was just beginning to carve a fearsome reputation at Middlesbrough.

Naming Souness in his all-time Scotland XI recently, on Off The Ball, Giles recalled one battle, when the wily maestro left a mark on the rising general.

"He had plenty to say on the pitch and he could dish out a bit as well.

“I was in an incident with him at Middlesbrough, and I copped him. I'm not bragging about it, but I copped him.

"He went crackers with me. 'I'll break your effing legs’. I just said, 'Well, we'll see about that, Graeme.'

"Graeme could dish it out, but he had to take it as well."

On Premier League promotion duty with Sky Sports this week, Souness admits no payback was ever registered.

“I can remember it vividly. I can remember Ayresome Park. Because he was an absolute rascal.

“I was a lot bigger than Johnny, and I was a lot bigger than Billy Bremner. And I can remember playing against that Leeds team when I’m 20 years old. And I’m diving into tackles and I might have been trying to catch Johnny. Never did.

“It’s no longer there, but I could take you onto Ayresome Park, by the corner flag, someone’s played a short corner to me, and as I’ve played it first time, I didn’t know he was on my shoulder and he’s just gone, ‘eh, have some of that’. His six studs, a real stinger.”

“We were good pals after that,” Gilesy said, two biters often bitten.

And Souness took the lesson on board.

“Apart from being someone who could very much look after himself, he was a top performer. A master craftsman, You know, proper player. But nasty little bastard.”

It’s said with affection.

“I say to people, there's three players I never laid a finger on, in my career. In those days, it was part of my job, because I was big for a midfield player. One was Zico. Too cute, had a radar. Another one was Alan Ball and I’ve got to throw Johnny Giles into that as well.

“I caught (Billy) Bremner a few times but could never lay a finger on Johnny.

“And he reminds me!”

Graeme Souness is a Sky Sports analyst. Sky Sports will show 64 matches – 39 exclusive to subscribers and an extra 25 available more widely on Sky One. Premier League action returns with a double-header on 17 June.

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